Braun: Campaign, business share same dynamics

The Herald
By Candy Neal

JASPER — Campaigning for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat keeps Mike Braun away from home. A lot.

And that keeps him in a spotlight of sorts. A lot.

“This is a lot more visible, that’s for sure,” the Republican candidate said Wednesday from his office at Meyer Distributing in Jasper. He was in town for a couple of days to catch up on some business at his company.

“I’m out a lot meeting and greeting and talking to people,” he added. “A part of campaigning is fundraising, and when you’re a challenger, you have to spend a lot of time doing that.”

He arrived home in Jasper before 1 a.m. Wednesday, watched the news and returned some emails before going to sleep. He was back up before 6 a.m.

“If you need a lot of sleep, this would be the wrong thing to be doing,” he said.

Homebodies need not pursue national politics either. Just the act of campaigning keeps Braun away from his Jasper home most of the week.

“That’s one of the prices you pay,” he said. “I love my life here, and I never was a real traveler. Now I’ve seen every nook and cranny of Indiana. But that’s neat, too. There are so many neat places that I never would have gone to otherwise.”

He does manage to get home each week for a day of down time with his family.

“I always make it home for Sundays. I’ll even drive five hours to do it,” he said. “I think it was back in the primary [election], I ended up in Goshen, which is about as far north as you can go without crossing the state border. It was past 9:30 (p.m.) when I was done there, and I got home about a quarter to three in the morning. We didn’t go to 7:30 (a.m.) Mass like we normally do, so I did sleep in a little that day.”

Having that day at home helps to keep him relaxed and focused.

“I try to keep my Sundays where they are the same, decompress and get back on the road Monday morning,” he said.

Although he’s not home most nights, Braun is surrounded by family and friends at the end of the day, no matter where he is. He stays with his sister in Zionsville often, and said his typical week starts with him driving there early on Monday morning.

“And I stay with people I’ve gotten to know,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of friends, and they’ve invited me into their homes. They’re always giving me advice about the race. I learn something every time we do it. In the entirety of this campaign — 14 months — I’ve probably only stayed in a hotel four or five times.”

Braun has been spending his two days a week in Dubois County catching up with work at his company, attending events and meeting with different groups and organizations. He even dropped by the Jasper Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon Wednesday, though he couldn’t stay for the whole event.

“Every day has some version of activities,” he said, “and it’s always a long day. I get up early, and many days don’t get done until 10 to midnight. I’ve been doing that for 14 months.”

He makes sure he eats healthy, being very selective of the tasty offerings that may be available at functions, and stays physically active as much as possible.

“I always walk and take the steps instead of the elevator. I seldom take a vehicle if where I’m going is within walking distance,” he said. “I get my exercise in that way.”

He is always flanked with campaign staff, like staff member Zach Riddle, who keeps notes and keeps Braun on schedule.

“Well, we’ve listened to a lot of music on the road, that’s for sure.,” Braun said with a laugh. “That’s fair to say, isn’t it?”

“That’s very fair,” said Riddle, who sat in a chair across from him, typing on his laptop. The two were going to work on Braun’s presentation for the Oct. 30 U.S. Senate debate with Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly and Libertarian challenger Lucy Brenton.

Although he is more visible in the public, Braun compares campaigning to running his business.

“To build a business over 37 years, especially the 27 years before my kids got involved and before I had a great executive team and lot more employees, I was always leading. I was never sitting back,” he said. “You have to stick your neck out and take risks every day, and make sure you do it wisely.

“It’s the same dynamic,” he continued. “It’s just that here, I was a little more under the radar, with a little lower profile. [The campaign] is the opposite, because it’s the game of politics. But it includes the same things, in terms of leading and articulating ideas and doing all that.”

A far as politics is concerned, national campaigning is similar to running for a state position, he said. “It’s the same mechanics, just a lot more geography,” Braun said. “And this race in Indiana is attracting a lot of national attention. It’s been a lot of hard work, meeting people and listening, raising resources to make sure you can get your message out. And doing it every day.”

The national political field is filled with negativity, especially by way of the campaign ads that constantly run on television and on social media. Unfortunately, that is part of the process, he said.

“You know that politics has gotten so ornery, in general. It turns a bunch of people off,” he said. “Anybody who knows me, knows the stuff is not true. But that is the sad nature of politics.”

The focus should be on a person’s actions, he said.

“Your record, whether you’re a conservative or a liberal, Republican or Democrat, is going to be always something that should be on trial, because that is what you’re actually doing,” he said.

He doesn’t internalize the negative ads he sees, and hopes that others follow suit.

His family has also had to adjust to seeing and hearing all the political bashing. “They would take the negative stuff a little more personally. It was harder for them to bear,” Braun said. “But now they’ve gotten used it.”

All the bashing has encouraged his wife, Maureen, to become more active in his campaign, including attending events and writing essays and letters supporting her husband.

“She got mad enough about the negative ads that she wanted to get out and tell the truth,” Braun said, smiling. “She is my most ardent supporter.”

Now that he has had more personal experience with campaigning on a national level, Braun said he would still make the same decision he did in August 2017 to run for the U.S. Senate.

“I’d still do it. I think the issues are so significant right now,” he said. “I want to weigh in on issues that are important to Hoosiers.”